Steve Lacy Seven

Clichés

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This 1982 session was originally a double LP called Prospectus. When putting it together for re-release on CD, some of the tapes had deteriorated to the point of no return, and this is what is left: perhaps a better recording than the original thanks to the editing. The Steve Lacy Sextet sessions with the addition of George Lewis on trombone are truly startling for the reason that they show this band at the absolute peak of its creative and intuitive power. Recorded as a portrait of the "state of things" within the band at the time, it is really no more than that -- and perhaps that's why it looks so large. Lacy's compositional style had been evolving for some time toward larger groups and, by the time the sextet had hit its stride, he was offering his musicians works to play that were originally written for much larger ensembles. On "Stamps" and "Wickets," one hears the arrangement style of Charles Mingus in the foreground; the long, asymmetrical, repetitive foreground lines are shadowed by the rhythm section playing a deep blues that echoes the piano playing of Bobby Timmons. When the horns join in the blues reverie, it's time for pianist Bobby Few to step out and let Lewis hold down the fort. It's blues, blues, and all blues -- though they certainly are a different shade of blues. Next up is the crazy "Whammies," which Lacy claims is based on lines from Fats Navarro. And it is crazy and even unbearable, with all that intensity happening at one time and all those conflicting harmonies, adding up to one big musical mess! But as the album's shining diamonds -- "The Dumps" and "Clichés" -- come into view, it's easy to hear the near telepathic communication among this band's members. Lacy doesn't even have to lead; he only needs to name the tune. At this time in his career, Few was a pianist with no peers; coming from equal parts bop and vanguard jazz, he is the ballast for the group, and all roads lead from him to Lacy and from Lacy into the stratosphere. Lacy and Lewis have a tremendous rapport, particularly on "The Dumps," where they counter and then play each other's solos! As the record closes with the rollicking abstraction that is "Clichés," listeners can feel the closeness of this "chamber" ensemble, even with Lewis in the mix. Both the percussive and rounded edges of the piece offer aspects of listening in a mode seldom heard on jazz records anymore. This record is a bouquet of essences, amplifications, dissonances, and complex melodic invention. It was one of the Steve Lacy Sextet's closest steps to perfection.

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